Last weekend we had Web Parton from Arizona teach our dogs how to recognize and stay away from rattlesnakes. What a fascinating and inspiring class! Web had each of our dogs one by one approach the snake and learn to recognize its scent, sight and sound. The scent, however, was the most important sense of all since a dog is much more likely to smell a snake before it would see one. As each dog got to come face to face with the snake, he soon decided he didn't want anything to do with it and turned away!
To reinforce the behavior, each dog received a small shock when it would come close to the snake. After a couple of times being "bitten" by the snake, the dog wouldn't go anywhere near one. As a final test at the end of the night, Web put a snake in a mesh bag so that it couldn't move or rattle, but the dogs could still smell it. He put the bag at the base of a tree and each dog took a turn walking by the tree. Sure enough, as soon as the dog caught wind of the snake's scent, he stopped dead in his tracks and turned around. Success! According to Web, the experience these dogs had with the snake that night will stay with them the rest of their lives, and more than likely, they will never go near a snake again. I'm so relieved to know my dogs are that much safer hiking in the canyons in the summertime!